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Join Date: Feb 2012
Liked 9 Times on 9 Posts
One of the best things you can do, if you don't already know exactly what you want, is to take a look at the AR Picture Thread. When I first started, all I knew was I wasn't a fan of the stock front sight post. Looking at all the other rifles here gave me ideas, allowed me to pick a direction and know what I truly wanted, instead of buying what was at my Local Gun Store and finding out later that a 15" Handguard really DOES look that badass.
But I'm biased :P
Decide if you want a carbine or mid-length gas system. I advise the mid-length, I feel it runs slightly smoother and is easier on the internals of your gun. The rifle length has its has port 12" away from the chamber. The carbine length has system has the port 7" from the chamber. This causes a shorter dwell time and increased pressures flowing back up through the gas block and rod and back to your BCG. While this isn't a huge deal, it can cut some of the life span from the internals on the rifle. The mid-length solves this by placing the gas port the same 9" away from the chamber, therefore increasing the dwell time and allowing more room for the gas to expand prior to it entering the gas port and going back to blow back your bolt for the next round, decreasing some of the wear on said bolt. I don't think the difference is huge, but given the option with both being the same price, carbine or mid-length from the same manufacturer, I would as "why NOT go with a mid-length?". Plus, you can't mount a bayonet on your carbine, it's too far from the end of the barrel. With a bayonet lug, you CAN mount one on you middy! Not that I would mount a bayonet on my rifle, I don't even have the front sight post or bayonet lug, but it's the principle of the matter damnit!
Once that's figured out, decide if you want a front sight post or if you want a low profile gas block and an extended rail. This can decide how you shoot your gun. Magpul preaches a C-clamp with the left arm far out on an extended rail, preaching that it increased accuracy and decreases follow-up shot time due to extra control. If you prefer to shoot using a forgrip instead, then you may not need an extended rail. It also comes in to play with other things you may want to add, such as a flashlight. A longer Handguard means less of a barrel shadow and allows you to put the light closer to the end of the gun. I'm an advocate for longer rails myself, but wish I would have gone with the tube design over the quad rail. 12" on a 14.5" barrel and 15" on a 16" barrel is where it's at! (in my oh so humble opinion)
Depending on what you want from the gun will also help determine what type of barrel you want. For precision shooting, a stainless barrel will be the one to go with, they are the most accurate (not by much, but a little bit goes a long way in precision shooting) but will degrade faster. For none precision shooting, chrome lined barrels will still offer you the chance to shoot sub-MOA with excellent ammo and a great shooter, but will also last lover than a traditional stainless barrel. Chrome lined is by far the most popular due to the extended lifespan granted by compromising very little accuracy. You only need to be "minute of bad guy" to get the job done!
Barrel length and twist will also be determined by what you want to do with the gun. Longer range shooting = longer barrel, with 20" to 24" being more common longer range type barrels and 16" or 14.5 with a tacked flash hider being the most common length due to legal restrictions limiting any less without a special permit for a short barreled rifle. 16" barrels will still get you out to 500 yards easy enough with the .223, it's considered the most practical length (opinion based information). The grain of bullet you will fire will determine the barrel twist. Of you are shooting very light bullets, varmint bullets, you would go with a lesser twist (the number escapes me, I don't shoot the super light varmint ammo). For heavier grain bullets, a 1:9, 1:8, and 1:7 are all available. The military uses 1:7 twist due to the heavy grain bullets they fire along with the tracer rounds. Tracer rounds are longer and require a faster twist to stabilize them during flight, hence the 1 in 7, or 1 full twist in ever 7" of barrel, twist rate. For home defense, plinking, SHTF and general rifle use, as long as you aren't going to be shooting the incredibly light ammo, any of the three above would work fine. I have 1:7, and it stabilizes 62 grain bullets just fine.
Buy cheap, buy twice. The most important part of the rifle is the barrel, followed by the other upper components. Spend the money on a good complete upper, and the rest should fall in to place. I went with PSA, a company that's still relatively new on the big-time market and they use all the same materials and quality testing that the big names use, but they are lacking in the CS department due to their smaller size and recent explosive growth. Order through them and you may save $100-$150 on an upper, but you also may have to wait three weeks for an in stock it's to ship since all their uppers are assembled when ordered, not before. If you have that finds for it, I highly recommend Bravo Company Manufacturing, they have great shipping times, excellent CS, and make superb products. Daniel Defense is pricey, but their product is another that you can count your life and the lives of your family on and never be disappointed. All good things to say about DD and BCM. Spikes is also a great brand, they were where PSA was not too long ago and have established themselves a but more, hands the slightly higher prices. Around here, reputation is everything. You may make your parts with the same materials, using the same testing processes like high pressure testing and magnetic particle inspection, but until you have established yourself as a company that puts out the highest quality 99.9% of the time and have the CS there to go above and beyond, you can't charge the same as the big boys do. Hence the premium on DD, KAC, BCM, etc etc.... But with those guys, you are GUARANTEED the highest quality.
Good luck on your build man, I'm sure the real experts like Tikki here will guide you to excellence. I was just bored and wanted to type for a while :P
Edited for spelling and a hot fix on the gas system lengths from Tikki!
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -Benjamin Franklin
Last edited by Todd_; 04-13-2012 at 12:01 AM.